Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Adminstration


DBQ: Analyze the responses of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration to the problems of the Great Depression. How effective were these responses? How did they change the role of the federal government?


Roosevelt\'s Solutions to the Depression


During FDR\'s administration, the social and economic climate was one of uncertainty of the future and hesitation to move forward. After the depression, people were afraid to invest their money back into the economy in fear of losing it again. There was a stalemate of the government economy relationship in that the government did not do much to improve the economy in this period up until the Roosevelt administration. FDR brought the government back into social and economic affairs in order to undo the harm done during the depression. Some said his "New Deal" delved too deep into personal affairs and went too far in an attempt to improve the economy, while some said it did not go far enough. In all, the attempts made by the FDR administration to solve these problems were mostly ineffective in that they accomplished their goals in some aspects, but canceled out the positive effects with polar opposite effects in other aspects. However, despite their ineffectiveness, the FDR administration gave the federal government a new role in legislation and in American life.


Franklin Roosevelt\'s willingness to experiment with solutions allowed his New Deal to start off with a remarkable variety of legislation that provided for relief, limited recovery, and reform in a wide variety of areas. The first "Hundred Days," saw fifteen pieces of major legislation enacted and remains one of the most productive legislative sessions ever. In his attempts to provide a solution for America\'s problems, he intended to preserve capitalism rather than dissipate it. Despite its productive and helpful goals, the New Deal and the FDR came under much criticism on both ends of the spectrum. The dramatic expansion of government power and intervention in the economy drew criticism that the New Deal was doing too much and becoming a socialist movement into American society, trying to control all aspects of life. As we can see from Document B, many people believed that the New Deal was prohibiting business and failing to rejuvenate the economy by creating an extensive debt. These critics believed the movement was socialist or communist because it was hindering stimulation of business and employment. Critics also believed that because it prevented employment and demanded shorter hours with higher wages, this solution would cause "disaster to all classes."


Wealthy businessmen accused Roosevelt of being a "traitor to his class" and lobbied against his New Deal programs. Pushed from the left and criticized by the right, Roosevelt decided by 1935 to abandon the middle and shift dramatically to the left. Labor was given the right to organize unions which forbade employers to discriminate against union members. The Social Security Act provided for federal pensions and for unemployment insurance. Although Roosevelt had hoped to bring federal work relief programs to an end, persistent massive unemployment required that they continue. The Revenue Act of 1935, which its conservative opponents called the "soak the rich" bill, increased the tax burden of the upper class and helped consolidate Roosevelt\'s support among the poor. The conservative Supreme Court decreed some major elements of the "Hundred Days" legislation to be unconstitutional, including the National Recovery Administration. Father Charles Coughlin, a Catholic priest from Michigan who had been an early supporter of the president, began to call for the nationalization of the banking system and the expansion of the money supply. The priest\'s weekly radio program reached millions of listeners and posed a threat to the president\'s reelection in 1936. As we can see in document G, radio broadcasts reached a huge audience and greatly contributed to the grief received by the FDR administration. If the New Deal had not granted laborers rights to many of the things spoken about in this document, labor would not have been such a mess, and became a great source of social unrest during the period. In document F, it can be seen that a majority of people believed that the government was going to far in legislating employees\' hours and wages and that wages have no relationship with commerce.


Others however, criticized the New Deal for